Clay Canning started his cellphone screen protector design company Screen Skinz as a “side gig” in high school. Now, with his education through Polk State College, years of experience in the industry, licenses with the big leagues, and viral TikToks, he has forged a path to entrepreneurial success.
Screen Skinz is an online retailer and designer of screen protectors comprised of tempered glass with inscribed logos and images – many that display those of popular NBA, MLB, NCAA, NHL, and State University System teams. What is particularly innovative and unique about the product is that the image is visible while the screen is off and seemingly disappears when the screen is turned on, ensuring that the user’s view of their phone or tablet is not obstructed.
“As a big sports fan with a background in the equipment I use to make the screens, one day I decided to put the Florida Gators logo on one of my own screens. It wasn’t perfect, but with my passion for engineering and design, I thought ‘how can I not go into making these at a larger scale?’” Canning explained of the creation of his product.
He began selling screen protectors on Amazon to test the waters but needed licensing from respective organizations to use their logos. In 2018, he landed his first license with the University of South Florida. By the end of 2021, Screen Skinz plans to add licenses with the NFL.
There have been many factors to the growth of Canning’s business, including networking, social media, support from the local community, and the knowledge he has gained in Polk State’s Bachelor of Applied Science in Supervision and Management Program.
“It was a huge financial decision for me that has paid off. Being able to put the money I have saved by choosing Polk State College back into my business has been a huge factor.”
“It was a huge financial decision for me that has paid off,” he explained. “Being able to put the money I have saved by choosing Polk State College back into my business has been a huge factor.”Canning completed dual enrollment courses through Polk State while he was a student at George Jenkins High School. When contemplating where to pursue a bachelor’s degree, he decided that Polk State was the affordable and flexible option that would allow him to best balance his studies with growing his business.
And he didn’t have to sacrifice the quality of his education to do this. He noted that his accounting and business law courses have provided him with critical insight and knowledge to navigate his entrepreneurial endeavors.
“What I like most about Polk State is the professors,” he added. “Teaching business and doing business are two different things and these professors have their own businesses, have run businesses, or have been part of businesses before. They know their stuff and it has been valuable to learn from their professional experiences.”
He has also gained the support of local business leaders.
Canning was a winner of Catapult’s 2020 LAUNCH Pitch Night (think local, live Shark Tank) which awarded him a machine to utilize in the Catapult Maker Space in Lakeland as well as up to $10,000 in matching funds toward securing licenses.
Additionally, when he went viral on TikTok in September, a group of his friends got together at the Publix Greenwise Market to help respond to a flood of orders, comments, and direct messages. He has since garnered nearly 6 million views on his TikTok and has received international attention.
The numbers will only go up from here, as Canning prepares to expand the Screen Skinz team from three employees to seven and as they look ahead to the upcoming football season when the company brings in between 60 to 70 percent of its revenue.
Canning himself looks forward to graduating with his Polk State bachelor’s degree in the fall and investing even more time into his business.
“What I like most about Polk State is the professors. They know their stuff and it has been valuable to learn from their professional experiences.”
He expressed gratitude for his support system that has made it possible for him to balance his entrepreneurial and educational pursuits.
“My family and my best friend, Brooke Macmaster who also went to Polk State, have been monumental over the past three years in helping me create my business,” he said. “As an entrepreneur, I cannot stress enough the importance of having a strong support system of people who want to see you succeed.”